Santa Rosa, Sonoma County among thousands of water users on state’s tardy list for reports
By GUY KOVNER | Sep 4, 2016

Prompted by an ongoing statewide drought, California water regulators have put about 235 Sonoma County water right holders on notice they failed to submit mandatory reports on their diversion and use of water last year.

The list included Sonoma County and Santa Rosa, as well as ranchers, vineyard operators, businesses and local water districts, according to the State Water Resources Control Board data.

More than 3,700 entities holding water right permits and licenses statewide were sent notices last month advising them of their failure to file the reports by July 1.

A total of 12,201 permit and licensee reports were due on that date, and 4,284 were incomplete as of Aug. 23, said Tim Moran, a water board spokesman. Some parties hold more than one water right, so the notices were sent to about 3,700 of them, he said.

The letters gave the water right holders 30 days to file the report, noting that they could be subject to fines of $500 a day dating back to the deadline.

The requirement to report water use applies to holders of post-1914 water rights who are drawing water from surface lakes, rivers or streams or from “subterranean streams” located in gravel beds and below ground close to streams, said Kathy Mrowka, manager of the board’s water rights enforcement program.

The requirement does not apply to people or businesses who get their water from a public or private water system, nor to those who pump groundwater from wells.

“You have to have been issued a permit or license by the state water board to be on the list,” Mrowka said.

Letters are sent every year to water right holders who have failed to file, but sometimes only to the larger volume users, she said.

The letters, which were mailed Aug. 23, went to all permit holders this year because the state needs “better data for modeling the water demand picture,” Mrowka said.

On Friday, Mrowka said more than 300 reports had been submitted since Aug. 31 and during an interview she said 522 parties were online filling out reports.

“Pretty darn good (response),” she said.

Linda Reed, acting director of Santa Rosa Water, said Friday that officials had just discovered the city’s failure to file the report.

The state’s message was sent to an employee who had retired, she said.

“We are on top of it; we are correcting it,” Reed said.

Rebecca Wachsberg, a county spokeswoman, said county officials were working with the state board to determine if a water diversion had gone unreported.

“We are not aware of anything that we failed to do,” she said.

If any oversight is determined, “we’ll remedy it immediately,” Wachsberg said.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or On Twitter @guykovner

(File photo) Cars drive by a sign encouraging residents to save water in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. The state in August lifted a mandatory water conservation order for dozens of cities and towns -- including Santa Rosa and seven other North Bay water suppliers -- after a rainy, snowy winter eased the state’s five-year drought. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson,File)